Borough President and Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams announced his support for the Gowanus Rezoning on Friday, as the neighborhood-wide scheme snakes its way through the city’s land-use change process.
Adams, whose say as borough president is advisory, but whose influence as the presumed mayor-to-be is significant, hinged his support on the millions of dollars in capital improvements needed in the area’s public housing complexes, the Gowanus Houses and the Wyckoff Gardens.
“This is about investing in public housing,” Adams said. “Buildings cannot go up around NYCHA developments while residents see their futures go down.”
The beep made his announcement at the Gowanus Houses New York City Housing Authority development in Gowanus, alongside tenant leaders.
Adams’ advisory approval requires the rezoning plan to include full funding for capital improvements at both developments, with a ballpark estimate of $274 million in funding needed.
If the city is unable to come up with $274 million, Borough Hall recommended that the maximum heights and density for some of the rezoning area be capped at 145 feet, unless developers purchase air rights from the area’s NYCHA developments.
“New York City is always changing, but every once in a while we need a sea change — and that’s what I believe we are embracing now,” Adams said.
Adams, who ran and won a mayoral campaign that focused on working-class communities of color in the outer boroughs, indicated during the press conference that his administration could support similar projects in the future, that see NYCHA developments boosted through tax revenues from private developments in their area.
The 82-block rezoning proposal would allow for residential development in the largely industrial neighborhood while preserving some of the industrial uses the neighborhood has long been home to.
The rezoning has earned the conditional support of local Community Board 6, with money for NYCHA repairs among the paramount conditions the board said the city must meet.
“It’s great to see Borough President Adams emphasize the importance of NYCHA funding and so many other of the conditions we’ve emphasized throughout the Gowanus Rezoning Process,” said Community Board 6 District Manager Mike Racioppo.
Gowanus Councilmember Brad Lander, who has the most sway over the rezoning as the representative of the area and with the practice of member deference in mind, has said he will not approve the rezoning if adequate funding for NYCHA is not included.
“I’m going to use [the community board’s recommendation] and the borough president’s recommendation as my marching orders,” Lander said on Friday.
According to Lander, the city has proposed three different funding packages, all between $40 and $50 million, which the councilmember slammed as inadequate during a June press conference.
According to City Hall’s own estimates, there are at least $132 million in capital funding needs at the Gowanus and Wyckoff developments. Residents say the buildings are in a constant state of disrepair, with some buildings recently going without gas for as long as six months.
Ed Tyree, the president of the Gowanus Houses tenant association, said the rezoning feels like a chance for NYCHA residents to finally exert some leverage over the city, after years of neglect.
“Nobody’s mentioned the housing authority for years,” Tyree said. “And because they don’t mention it we become invisible. Now we’re not invisible because people want what we have, so we’re not just giving that away.”